Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ripsaw Robots #5

Ripsaw Robots will be a new feature that focuses on robotics in a very broad scope. From the useless to the revolutionary to the just plain giant and fantasy, Lish will bring you all the robot fix he can find.

Of course, I'm a bit distracted these days by my favorite fantasy robots as the merch/media juggernaut has begun to pick up speed. The NBA playoffs are now peppered with spots of comparing Lebron's dunking to Starscream's acrobatics and Tony Parker's teardrop shot to Bonecrusher's hatred of mass transit. I'm already on the prowl for a Softimus Prime for my son's clutching hands.

I bet many of you ask on a nigh-daily basis, "Why haven't I participated in a massive she-serpent fire spectacular today?" The lotus girls of the Serpent Mother offer probably one of the most awesome displays of snakes in years. Yes, years.

I for one have always been ready to welcome our robot overlords, but I was not expecting the revolution to begin with Danish lawnbots mowing down a man.

Still, most robots would rather be lovers than fighters, yes? I still can't stop laughing at this clip.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Promiscuous Teleology and all the fixins

Why some adults resist science and biased kids.

A great article over at gives some insight to why so many American adults resist scientific facts.

There are two common assumptions about the nature of this resistance. First, it is often assumed to be a particularly American problem, explained in terms of the strong religious beliefs of many American citizens and the anti-science leanings of the dominant political party. Second, the problem is often characterized as the result of insufficient exposure to the relevant scientific facts, and hence is best addressed with improved science education.

We believe that these assumptions, while not completely false, reflect a misunderstanding of the nature of this phenomenon. While cultural factors are plainly relevant, American adults' resistance to scientific ideas reflects universal facts about what children know and how children learn. If this is right, then resistance to science cannot be simply addressed through more education; something different is needed.

I hear those two explanation all the time from exasperated rational pals of mine; a retrograde 'Merican attitude inserted into an atrocious science education program MUST be the culprit to all these psychic friends networks and fossil hoax theorists. But you scratch that thought enough and it becomes apparent that such an answer is rather unsatisfying. Looking back at kids and suggesting we're predisposed for this kind of thinking gives better perspective.

Our intuitive psychology also contributes to resistance to science. One significant bias is that children naturally see the world in terms of design and purpose. For instance, four year-olds insist that everything has a purpose, including lions ("to go in the zoo") and clouds ("for raining"), a propensity that Deborah Kelemen has dubbed "promiscuous teleology." Additionally, when asked about the origin of animals and people, children spontaneously tend to provide and to prefer creationist explanations.

The panacea for this is of course, the scientific experiment. When one has a real world observation, those long stretch connections are easily shattered.

I love the conclusions, however.

In sum, the developmental data suggest that resistance to science will arise in children when scientific claims clash with early emerging, intuitive expectations. This resistance will persist through adulthood if the scientific claims are contested within a society, and will be especially strong if there is a non-scientific alternative that is rooted in common sense and championed by people who are taken as reliable and trustworthy. This is the current situation in the United States with regard to the central tenets of neuroscience and of evolutionary biology. These clash with intuitive beliefs about the immaterial nature of the soul and the purposeful design of humans and other animals — and, in the United States, these intuitive beliefs are particularly likely to be endorsed and transmitted by trusted religious and political authorities. Hence these are among the domains where Americans' resistance to science is the strongest.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Not enough Crisco

An unpleasant new study suggests sunblock just isn't enough to prevent skin cancer. This likely comes as a shock to you, as most folks polled aren't that worried about sun damage.

Sunscreen itself works because it contains chemical groups known as carbonyls. These bonds have the ability to absorb damaging ultraviolet rays and release that energy as lower wavelength emissions in the form of heat or other radiation. Contrast that to heavy clothing which also absorbs the radiation but also reflects a portion, thus providing a more robust shielding from the rays.

Ninety percent of all skin cancers are directly a result of sun damage.

Paul Verhoeven, in his seminal work, Robocop, laced the film with a couple of very notable faux commercials, satirizing a dehumanizing capitalistic system with his dystopic vision. Unfortunately for us, it might be more factual than we hoped.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Still the #1 threat to America

Bear kills Moose in Alaska Driveway.

She tore apart the chest cavity, ripped out the heart and ate it," Gary said. "It was like she knew that's what kept it alive.

Oh my Science, Colbert was right.